Children don’t get a say in their parents’ divorce. And divorce is difficult on children. They will have grief and many other emotions relating to the earth essentially shaking beneath their feet. That said, there are ways to help them move through it and have a healthy divorce without causing your child additional hurt.
It goes without saying that most parents are hurting while they are going through a divorce, especially if you didn’t initiate the divorce or are having a difficult time coming to terms with your soon to be ex spouse. Know that you are going to be self-absorbed. Know that there is going to be chaos. Know that there is going to be uncertainty. And figure that into the equation of your parenting.
First and foremost, get the support and marshal the resources that you will need to take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually during divorce. You can’t well take good care of others if you aren’t able to care for yourself.
Reassure Your Children That You Will Always Be There for Them
Help your children understand that things are changing, but that you and they will all be okay. Let them know that things might be hard or confusing right now, but reassure them that both parents (if that is the case) will always be there for them. Don’t try to pretend that everything’s going to be perfect. Because your children will know you for a liar and that strategy will only backfire.
Make room in yourself to listen to their fears and upsets. And try not to get upset by their upsets. They need you to listen to their concerns and fears. Half the battle with kids through divorce is just letting them have and express their feelings in the only ways they know how, which is often by difficult behavior.
Keep Kids Out of Your Problems
Keep the kids out of your problems. Do not burden them with all of your upsets relating to the divorce. They have no ability to understand what’s really going on and they will naturally want to protect you, but that’s impossible, because you are the parent. Get listened to from professionals, from friends who can actually support you, and from family members and clergy who will take the time to hear you out.
Don’t Argue With Your Spouse or Your Attorney Within the Kids Earshot
Try to avoid meeting the attorney or having upsetting phone calls relating to the divorce while they are around. They will have an even more difficult time if they hear you raging or going on about how hard it is or how upset you are.
Maintain Continuity and Structure as Much as Possible During Chaotic Transitions
Work hard to maintain a home structure that will work for you and the kids. Even if at this point your children are just starting to go back and forth between you and your spouse, and you haven’t yet come to any settlements, see if you can’t maintain some level of continuity in how you transition from your household to your spouse’s.
Do not ask your child to tell his or her father or mother anything.
Explain to them what’s happening, but don’t go into great detail. Tell them briefly your feelings, such as: “It’s sad, but we’re working it out.” Or, “We’re upset right now, but we’re going to be okay.” Or: “It’s confusing right now, but we’ll get it all sorted out.” They don’t need the detail and will likely have a hard time comprehending it, in any case.
When Kids Act Out
More likely, in most cases, they will show you how they feel by their behavior. This may mean you’ll see more acting out, reversion to earlier behaviors when they were younger, more anger, or more distance toward you or the other parent.
If you are seeing these types of behavior in your child, the most appropriate thing for you to do is realize that your child is scared and upset, and needs you to come even closer in connection. The child needs to release his or her upsets and fears, and you or the other parent are the ones that he or she feels safest with. Tell yourself that this is only a phase and it will pass.
Visit the HandinHandparenting.org website, a nonprofit forum and support group that is free for parents that can help you address how to resolve your own hurts and parent as effectively as possible through divorce.
Get the help you need to grieve the end of your family and your dreams. And remember, after every ending, is a new beginning – if you let it happen. Your kids are watching you and absorbing how you grow through this process. Care for yourself, and allow this to be a move that will bring good things into your new life for all.
Concerned About Protecting Your Children Through Your Divorce? Skilled Jenkintown Child Support and Family Law Attorney
Discuss your concerns relating to child custody, divorce and other family law matters with a knowledgeable, experienced family law attorney. To schedule a completely confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and caring family law attorney at Joanne E. Kleiner & Associates, in Jenkintown, PA, please call 215-886-1266 or you can fill out our intake form and we will contact you.
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